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Notre Dame fire a ‘reminder’ of Westminster restoration risks

8 May 2019 | By Neil Gerrard

The fire at Notre Dame cathedral in Paris serves as a “reminder” of the risks faced in the restoration of the Palace of Westminster, the government has warned.

The message comes as the government set out its plans to create a sponsor body, serving as ultimate client for Parliament, and a delivery authority for the works, which are set to cost up to £3.9bn.

The comments came as part of lead of the House of Commons Andrea Leadsom and Baroness Evans’ response to a report published in March by the House of Lords Joint Committee scrutinising the Draft Parliamentary Buildings (Restoration and Renewal) Bill.

The government’s response said that recent incidents, including falling masonry, “have further highlighted the urgency of the works to restore and renew the Palace of Westminster. The tragic fire at Notre Dame has also served as a reminder of the risks to this historic and iconic building.”

The government accepted many of the peers’ recommendations in full, including that the newly created sponsor body must have regard to the safety and security of the people who work in Parliament and members of the public during the work,.

But it rejected other recommendations, including that there should parliamentarians from each house elected to the sponsor body board or that there should be a Treasury minister as a member of the sponsor body.

Chair of the Lords joint committee, Dame Caroline Spelman MP said: “I am pleased the government has accepted many of the committee’s recommendations including requirements for the restoration and renewal Sponsor Body to ensure health and safety on the estate and for it to engage fully with staff and the public on the programme.

“It is disappointing that some other important recommendations we made have been rejected, for example we think the parliamentary members of the sponsor body should be elected by other members as House of Commons committee chairs are, this would ensure their independence and that they were answerable to their colleagues in Parliament rather than their parties leadership. Plus having a treasury minister on the board would have ensured those responsible for taxpayers’ money would have a handle on the costs of the project. We would also like to see a legislative requirement for the sponsor body to promote public engagement with Parliament as part of its work.

“The government will bring a bill to Parliament soon and as a committee we will continue to press for more of our recommendations to be adopted as that bill goes through both Houses.”

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